robert ‘clutch’ cabin
Robert Hillmann is the speckled face and driving force of the creative collective, Clutch Cabin. The cabin mostly generates music, but it is also a collection of podcasts, visual art/mixed media, and talented souls. On recordings (for the most part), he plays every instrument, aside from back up vocals and piano- which are performed by Julia Forsyth. But he’s also working with various musicians to fill in the missing spots. It wouldn’t make sense to just call it a band. “Thinking with a creative mind is more than just being able to play an instrument.”
I’ve known Clutch for a very long time. One of our earliest shared memories is of me hitting him in the head with a coconut during a trip we took to Florida with our mothers. I was like seven years old, but it’s still brought up to this day- probably because I knocked him into the creative side of his brain. And all these years, he’s been dabbling in the arts; drawing creepy little characters, photographing our friends in front of abandoned buildings, covering his studio in canvases, and recording/editing music. He’s been loyal to his craft since the day he discovered it and is compelled to be the most genuine, unrefined version of himself. He’s never had a problem speaking his mind and being honest, which is very honorable. So when he speaks, people listen.
His passion for creating music was cultivated on the Jersey shore. He has a special love for it; the shore is home and always will be. When he thinks of the music he grew up around, “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen is first to come to mind. Cranston Dean, a musician from Monmouth County, had a big part in guiding Robert towards his passion. He inspires him, but his sound wasn’t influenced by the bands in the area. Clutch Cabin’s music is genreless, due to the limitations that come with one, but the melodies have a folky feel. The acoustic guitar, harmonica, and shaker- with a little bass and drum beat here and there- bring a comforting feeling to the table. From art galleries to late-night coffee shops to bars, the cabin has spread an intimate fever.
The love behind all of it is apparent. You can feel him in everything that’s produced. He’s responsible for missing links and is the foundation, but isn’t bent on taking the credit. He is a lyricist and poet. He keeps his notebook beside his bed, where he is most inclined to dream up something. Half of the time he’s writing, it’s a general feeling and the other half is a vent. It follows a theme, but doesn’t always make sense. Then over time, the pieces are put together or moved and matched. And when it all clicks, he plays guitar or Julia plays piano to it- the birth of a song.
There are so many different ways to do things. There’s no structure or rubric that comes with being creative. You have the power to design your own path. There’s all this freedom and you’re in charge of putting it together, figuring it out and making it work. But doing what YOU want and going against the common grain receives a lot of criticism in any aspect. Although we are young, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to work hard. The minute we sit down to rest, we start feeling like we’re being lazy or unproductive. There are so many people watching, waiting, and doubting. We fight to make ourselves heard, to convince people we are worthy and can make it by driving our passion.
Skepticism may come from any angle, including the people you’re closest to. Even if someone doesn’t exactly like or “vibe” with what you’ve created, it doesn’t meant they can’t support you. “Some people would rather guide you towards a plan b than help you succeed with a plan a. That energy is so easily manifested when it comes to going to college or financial aid for it, but that doesn’t interest me. That’s not the path I’m supposed to be on.” It’s hard to be who you are and also try not to care what everyone is saying about it, but the negative words eventually become the motivation to push harder for the dream- to prove everyone wrong.
The greatest piece of advice Robert has given me was to always create for myself and no one else. Fall in love with what you’re doing and let go, be open to receiving and things will come. You have to have complete trust in yourself and the process to prosper. You don’t have to have a 9-5 job to succeed. He wants people to know that when they look at him or hear/see his art. “Sometimes the creations end up being disappointments, but even then, there is so much to take away from those moments. Opportunities are really endless as cheesy as it sounds. It’s really awesome to see how far things have come in just a year. It’s all been so worth it.”